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Congressional Network: Populist Caucus as of March 11, 2009

Below you can review a video representation of the congressional network of one of the newest caucuses in the House of Representatives, the Populist Caucus. This network video shows ties of varying strength between members of the Populist Caucus, using data current as of March 11, 2009.

The blue blocks you see represent the members of the Populist Caucus. A network tie between a pair of members is defined as the number of bills before the current session of the House that both members support, either as a principal sponsor or cosponsor. Through the course of the video, the threshold for the appearance of a tie increases. At first, when the threshold is the existence of ANY jointly supported bill, all members of the Populist Caucus are tied. But as the threshold of tie strength increases (see box on the right), signifying stronger cooperative behavior in the Congress, fewer ties appear.

Interestingly, when it comes to this network of bill support, caucus founder Bruce Braley is peripheral — not acting in joint support of bills with fellow members of the House Populist Caucus to a high degree. The network core of the Populist Caucus, those who are acting most in concert with one another, are:

Rep. Keith Ellison
Rep. Bob Filner
Rep. Mazie Hirono
Rep. Jan Schakowsky
Rep. Betty Sutton

Notice who else is not on that list: caucus vice chairs Peter DeFazio and Michael Arcuri. Watching that video, you’ll see Rep. Arcuri drops off at an especially low threshold of joint action with fellow members. The only formal caucus leader who is also a member of the network’s core is Vice Chair Betty Sutton. This is a pattern distinct from that in the legislative network of the Progressive Caucus, for which high scores on a progressive index, leadership position and network centrality are strongly related to one another.

Does the marginal network status of most Populist caucus leaders suggest a future leadership struggle within the Populist Caucus? Or will caucus leadership and network centrality come to overlap more as the Populist Caucus gets more organized? Stay tuned to find out!

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